When restaurateur Dennis Thompson opened the first Firebirds Wood Fired Grill in 2000, the notion of giving back was woven into the company’s culture. “It’s in our DNA to be involved with and support the communities where we do business,” says Stephen Loftis, Vice President of Marketing for Firebirds. “It’s simply part of who we are as an organization.”
“Our relationship with ALSF (Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation) began when two of our GMs in Arizona decided to sponsor a local golf tournament that was raising money for childhood cancer research. Firebirds was looking to align itself with a charity that wasn’t too large, and one that focused its efforts on children. Lemonade was a natural tie-in since it was already on our menu.”
“In 2012 we met Alex’s parents Liz and Jay Scott who founded ALSF in honor of their daughter, Alex, who succumbed to cancer at the age of eight. There was an immediate connection and we “officially” partnered with ALSF system-wide. Fast forward to today — Firebirds has raised over $1.9 million for ALSF and we expect to eclipse the $2 million mark in 2020 which happens to be the 20th anniversary for both our company and their foundation.”
In each of their 51 locations, Firebirds fundraising efforts for ALSF include:
- Lemonade Sales Donation: For every glass of lemonade sold, Firebirds donates $1.25 to ALSF year-round.
- Kids Menu: Every kids menu features the photo and story of an Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation childhood cancer hero.
- New Restaurant Openings: In addition to supporting & celebrating ALSF’s childhood cancer hero families on their kids menu, at every new restaurant opening Firebirds invites local hero families to celebrate with them.
During ALSF’s annual Lemonade Days tradition, Firebirds employees staff lemonade stands at every restaurant location where they raise awareness and money for ALSF.
- Product Donation: All proceeds from every glass of Alex’s Lemonade sold, and a portion of proceeds from every slice of the Big Daddy Lemon Cake is donated to ALSF.
- Round Up for a Cure: Guests are given an opportunity to increase their check total to the nearest dollar amount, with the difference donated to ALSF.
- Tito’s Lemonade Drop : In collaboration with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Firebirds will donate $2 from each purchase of the Tito’s Lemonade Drop to ALSF during the month of August.
In addition to in-store fundraising, Firebirds also supports ALSF at the corporate level with two annual events:
The Lemon Ball: Firebirds is a Diamond-level sponsor of this annual fundraising event which includes sending 20 staff members to the ALSF gala in Philadelphia. Every year, they come back so inspired to help eradicate childhood cancer.
Alex’s Lemonade Stand Golf Classic : Firebirds organizes an annual golf tournament in September, which is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, that garners support from vendor partners, stakeholders, guests, and the entire Charlotte community.
Firebirds guests appreciate the partnership, too. “Many tell our servers that it is one of the reasons they continue to come back to Firebirds (in addition to our great food) and it’s a direct touchpoint that connects our staff with our guests in a meaningful way. ALSF is prominent on our menus, on our website and on our social media channels.”
Finally, when asked about the ROI of giving to a non-profit each year, Loftis replied, “While it’s hard to quantify a direct ROI, it definitely plays an important role in our recruiting efforts, particularly among millennials, which happens to be one of our fastest growing demographics of guests and staff. This is not so much a brand strategy as it is a corporate philosophy.”